People seem very concerned with customer experience these days. There are conferences on it — like CX Week, which just happened at the end of May — and numerous niche publications and the always-willing “thought leaders” in the space. It’s definitely evolved, which is ironic in a way. Wasn’t customer experience always the idea? Didn’t management guru Peter Drucker say back in the early 1970s that the only goal of a company was, in fact, to create and maintain a customer? It seems like we’re all a few decades late to this party, but we can gloss that over for now.
As customer experience has evolved as a field and a niche, the amount of advice on the Internet about it could probably fill most of South America with printouts from Inc and Forbes. Most of this advice is 35,000-foot view stuff that’s pretty banal. We’ll try to avoid that here.
The secret to improve customer experience is going to vary by industry. Start there. If you’re at a place like Abercrombie, you need the associates in your brick-and-mortar stores to act a certain way and follow a certain playbook; if that’s consistent and the actual product (the clothes) stays consistent, people will come back. But if your local Abercrombie has snotty cashiers, it really doesn’t matter how much you like the clothes. You probably won’t come back.
At Tenacity, we deal with call centers predominantly. If you have a business that utilizes call centers (outbound or inbound), there’s a really basic key to customer experience.
That would be agent retention.
Surprisingly, a lot of people can’t see this connection, but let’s spell it out for you.
Customer experience as a concept is about consistency. In this context, the word “experience” is a close cousin of “consistency.” If the experience isn’t consistent, well, it’s no longer an experience. It’s a disjointed series of events. The consistency is what turns it into an experience.
Customers want consistency because it comforts our brain: same product/service, same treatment, same approach to issues, etc.
But when your call center is churning agents like crazy, that consistency goes away. Here are the bad things that happen with agent attrition/churn:
- You lose money
- Wait, we lose money?
- How much?
- (Read this.)
- You’re always retraining new agents, so information is being lost, and…
- … the experience on the other end isn’t consistent, so…
- …. customers are confused, and thus …
- … they might well navigate away, which means …
- … to make your numbers, you need to find new customers, which is hard because…
- … acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining old ones …
- … so now everyone is mad at you for various different things, and you’re just not a happy camper anymore
Honestly, while some of this is meant to make you laugh a bit, let’s be clear: agent retention is the first step in this bouncing ball series. If you’re churning agents, there is no way your end customer experience will be consistent or good for those using your call centers (i.e. those calling in).
If you get a handle on agent retention numbers — associated costs, changes in survey scores around customer experience when attrition rises — then you can more easily figure out what needs to be done (hint: very little of what the “experts” are saying) and improve customer experience and agent retention all at once.